Ipe Maintenance Tips from the Wood Pros at Topcoat Finishes
1. Do not use film forming coatings. Period.
This rule, in my strong opinion, applies to all decks, including ipe. We have stripped far too many failing film coatings (like the old Sikkens formulations) to think it is any kind of a good idea. Sure, it works on boats, but is way too high maintenance for a home. Owners of boats with exotic woods generally have very good maintenance habits prior to each season, which attributes to the success of films on boats. But a boat is only in the water half the year. And home maintenance hasn’t achieved that level of mainstream fashionable enthusiasm…yet. May your ipe deck finish be the one that shoves the whole neighborhood in the direction of wood snobbery.
Read in more depth about Rule #1 at ipehelp.com.
2. Do not overapply penetrating oils, but do use them, and wipe excess.
I have been told that ipe has the structural density of steel. Throw a piece in some water, and watch it sink. This density makes it a finishing anomoly. When you apply penetrating oil to softer woods, you can lay it on heavily by brush and it will suck in. Ipe will laugh at you as it spits most of the oil back out. The residue that is left will stay tacky for weeks, and then become a choice breeding ground for mildew formation. The art of the ipe deck finish is to apply it with a brush and then wipe off excess, like a hand rubbed finish on a fine piece of furniture.
[Related: More Ipe Finishing Tips]
3. Do not install decking without finish applied on all 4 sides, and sufficient rack time to dry
Do seal (with oil or wax) the cut ends (end grain) on installation. Prefinishing ipe, in our considerable experience in prefinishing ipe, has been the biggest factor (along with MAINTENANCE) in extending the life cycle of the finish applied. The less the wood moves (yes, its ipe, but ALL wood moves, especially in 6″ widths, laying horizontal in deck-like exposures), the happier the finish will be. Also, as decks are often low to the ground, with minimal underside air circulation, it is very cheap insurance to prefinish. You only get one chance to make a first impression. Prefinish. Then maintain.
4. Do not mislead the ipe owner that the deck will stay pretty forever because it is ipe.
Do not even tell them that they can reasonably expect 4-5 years. Ipe owners basically have two choices in how they want to live with their ipe: do no maintenance and let it turn silvery gray like the teak furniture; or accept the reality that if maintained periodically (read: every year or two), it will age with remarkable grace. Maintain the teak furniture too, for a more aesthetically pleasing outdoor living experience.
5. Do not apply finish by sprayer.
Get your kneepads on, do it the old fashioned way and enjoy!
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